Tesco has dropped its requirement for non-GM feed in rations for broilers and layers.

The supermarket has published a letter to consumers from Tim J Smith, group technical director, explaining its own-label fresh and frozen chicken and hens had been fed non-GM as a condition of suppliers’ contracts. This specification has now been dropped.

“Over recent weeks UK poultry and egg suppliers have been telling retailers that it is increasingly difficult for them to guarantee that the feed they use is entirely GM free,” said the letter.

Mr Smith explains the difficulty is down to the amount of non-GM soya now available: “There simply isn’t enough non-GM feed available. It is a global supply issue – 80% of the world’s soya is now modified.”

He also acknowledges that the integrity of non-GM soya had declined. “It is possible that non-GM soya crops contain low levels of GM soya,” the letter says.

“We could not continue with a promise we cannot be sure it is possible to keep and we want to be upfront about the changes we are making.

“We want to be clear with customers about food and that’s why we’re removing the GM-free guarantee for poultry and eggs. We are not the first UK supermarket to reach the conclusion that a non-GM policy on poultry feed is unsustainable, and we won’t be the last.”

In December 2012 the NFU, the British Poultry Council and the British Egg Industry Council wrote to the British Retail Consortium calling for the specification to be dropped. Tesco joins Asda and Morrisons, the two other UK supermarkets that allow GM feed in broiler and layers’ rations.

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